Image credit: William L. Lathrop, 1859-1938, Page from Lathrop Sketchbook #9, 1898-1904, pencil on paper, H. 8.5 x W. 5.25 inches, James A. Michener Art Museum. Gift of Tom Buckley.

So many artists have different approaches to their work and half the fun is learning about how they got to their final piece. Ideas can come to artists in a number of ways. Depending on what media they work in, artists often begin their work with a sketch.

Artists often use sketchbooks to draw their observations, take notes, or write down an idea that might come to mind. Bucks County Pennsylvania Impressionist painter William L. Lathrop was one such artist, and with his sketchbook, we can get a glimpse into his working method. His sketchbook includes drawings of figures, landscapes, and interior scenes with notes. Although he sometimes painted direct from nature, he preferred to finish his landscapes in his Phillips’ Mill studio, drawing upon his memory of a scene.

Contemporary artist Rob Evans uses many sketches to begin his work and ideas for his pieces can evolve over time. In his large three-panel painting, Cicada, he creates a narrative scene based on a childhood memory. The idea for the painting began in 1981 with a small sketch. He later continued his sketches into the mid-1990s, until he began the painting in 1998 and worked on it through 2001.

Technological advances in recent years have allowed artists to experiment with new processes and techniques. Artists have more tools at their fingertips then ever before. The exhibition To Stir, Inform and Inflame, features the work of political cartoonist Tony Auth. Auth tried new ways to create his political cartoons, include using a special app on Apple’s iPad, called Brushes. He stated enthusiastically, “I’ve been fooling around with the Brushes app on the iPad [for several months]….That’s been a joy!…Just using the medium, I’m trying to build time and motion into it!”

Even sketchbooks themselves can be considered works of art. With the Sketchbook Project, people can contribute their own sketchbooks to become part of a traveling library. This library archives thousands of artists’ sketchbooks from across the globe and shares them with the public. You can visit the library or view sketchbooks online.

If you are an artist, has technology changed your process or your approach to your work? Do you think the idea of the “traditional” sketchbook will change or disappear?